Troubled centre Blake Ferguson has gone AWOL, the fed-up Canberra Raiders finally intervening to cut off his $300,000 salary after he severed communication with the club.
Ferguson's days at the Raiders appear numbered, with the club's board delivering an ultimatum for the 23-year-old to personally front them and explain his behaviour or face the sack.
It was a similar proposal the board gave to Josh Dugan earlier this season, the club then left with no alternative but to axe the star fullback when he failed to show.
In more drama at the Raiders:
■ Ferguson was stood down immediately without pay on Wednesday for missing training and drinking while injured, and;
■ The Raiders will officially begin their search for a replacement head coach on Thursday, with the first scheduled meeting to discuss a list of as many as nine candidates.
The relationship between the Raiders and Ferguson now appears completely fractured and the only remaining question seems to be whether he will be sacked or walk out.
Ferguson has an exit clause in his contract after coach David Furner was sacked, but he can only activate that when his new upgraded $500,000 contract is official on November 1. Until then, he remains contracted to the Raiders and that deal has no official out clause.
Fairfax Media understands the Raiders have discussed Ferguson's issues with his acting manager and mentor Anthony Mundine this week. But Raiders chief executive Don Furner said Ferguson had not explained why he had skipped training on Tuesday and Wednesday, with club administration unable to contact him.
''We have been left with little choice but to stand Blake down from all playing and training duties, until we find out both why he has missed scheduled training commitments and why he has been drinking whilst injured, which is a clear breach of the club's rules,'' Furner said.
''Blake will be given the opportunity to explain his actions, and following that he may also be required to front the board to show cause.''
Ferguson has been in Sydney and it's understood the board will not accept an explanation by phone. The club has also distanced itself from Ferguson's impending court case for indecent assault. Ferguson is next due to face court in Sydney on Tuesday, but a club official said it was not providing financial assistance for Ferguson's legal fees.
Ferguson has already pushed the patience of his senior teammates too far, while interim Raiders coach Andrew Dunemann said he had not considered him for last week's match against Manly or this Saturday's game against the New Zealand Warriors.
Board members are angry Ferguson did not even attend the past two home matches to support the team. He was spotted two weeks ago at a Sutherland Shire pub the evening after the Raiders lost to the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Last weekend, he was pictured with former Raiders bad boy Todd Carney at the Clovelly Hotel in Sydney on Saturday night and reported to have been at Kings Cross early on Sunday morning.
Asked if the Ferguson situation had become a circus, Dunemann said, ''I think so.
''There definitely needs to be seen to be punishment for people who don't want to abide by what the rest of them do.''
Ferguson was last at Raiders training on Saturday morning, with the club's rehabilitation group.
Meanwhile, a Raiders sub-committee - including club legend Mal Meninga - will initiate the formal search for their next coach on Thursday afternoon.
It's understood the Raiders have a primary list of nine candidates and will develop a short-list before starting meetings and interviews over the next two weeks.
There is growing speculation the club has been in secret talks with Parramatta coach and former Raiders premiership winning halfback Ricky Stuart, but club officials have denied any approach.
with Lee Gaskin